Neonicotinoid use on cereals and sugar beet is linked to continued low exposure risk in honeybees

Woodcock, Ben A.; Ridding, Lucy; Pereira, M. Gloria; Sleep, Darren; Newbold, Lindsay; Oliver, Anna; Shore, Richard F.; Bullock, James M.; Heard, Matthew S.; Gweon, Hyun S.; Pywell, Richard F.. 2021 Neonicotinoid use on cereals and sugar beet is linked to continued low exposure risk in honeybees. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 308, 107205. 8, pp.

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Risks posed to bees from neonicotinoid seed treatments (clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid) led in 2013 to the European Union instigating a moratorium for their use on mass-flowering crops, including oilseed rape in the UK. This restriction did allow for the continued use of these seed treatments, in particular clothianidin, on non-flowering crops like winter wheat. To determine the impacts of the moratorium, we assessed neonicotinoid concentrations pre- (2014) and post- (2015−17) moratorium in 347 honey samples collected across Great Britain. While the probability of detecting clothianidin declined immediately following the moratorium, detection rates remained constant over the following three years (mean = 0.10 ppb, maximum = 2.8 ppb). In contrast, after three years thiamethoxam residues entirely disappeared while detection of imidacloprid was infrequent but persistent over the whole period. For those hives where neonicotinoids were detected, there was no evidence that the concentrations in the honey declined over the three years following the ban. Using metabarcoding approaches, we identified plants foraged upon by honeybees during the production of honey. After the moratorium came into effect, the highest neonicotinoid residues were associated with honey produced by foraging on both oilseed rape and several wild plants found in arable field margins. Concerns about soil persistence and uptake by non-target flowering plants ultimately led to a full European Union ban in 2018. Our results suggest that before this full ban came into effect, the use of clothianidin on non-flowering crops maintained a low-level probability of encountering this neonicotinoid within honey. However, these concentrations were low and would have been unlikely to pose significant risks to honeybees.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 0167-8809
Additional Keywords: Apis mellifera, clothianidin, imidacloprid, EU moratorium, metabarcoding, thiamethoxam
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 30 Dec 2020 11:08 +0 (UTC)

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